Tag Archive: Monmouth County

A Voice in the Wilderness

The New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve is 1.1 million acres of undisturbed land in this nation’s most densely populated state and is habitat to thousands of species of plants and animals. Since 1978, it has been administered by the Pinelands Commission, a group of 15 commissioners, seven appointed by the governor, one by each of the seven counties in which the reserve exists, and one by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Given our Governor’s disdain for the environment, it’s no surprise that one of the controversies surrounding the Pinelands is the proposal to run natural gas pipelines through the area, a big risk to the water table and critters that will be impacted. Christie has systematically placed pro-pipeline commissioners on the board, aided and abetted by GOP-controlled counties in the area.

I attended my first commission meeting on Friday, and there was only one person who bothered to speak against the pipeline, Lena Smith of Food and Water Watch. Her statement and a brief interview, along with some other thoughts, are below the fold.

Jim Keady running for Assembly, not likely to sit down – or shut up

Jim Keady is running for a seat in the NJ Assembly, and will have the backing of Monmouth Democrats, in a district that also includes Ocean County towns. It’s an uphill race, Democrats are in the minority in the 30th District where Republicans Sean Kean and Dave Rible are incumbents. But Monmouth Dems, under Chair Vin Gopal, are growing and Keady – who grew up in LD30’s Belmar, once sat on neighboring Asbury Park’s council, and returned to Belmar both to volunteer and to tangle with Gov. Christie – is not an unknown quantity in the shore towns.

If you want to track Chris Christie’s sinking poll numbers, and the serious bobble of his once-meteoric rise to the top of the GOP 2016 pack, one marker to look at is this moment last October – the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Sandy – when he told a heckler to “sit down and shut up.” That was Keady. It made national news, putting Christie in a negative light and spurring articles reexamining his actual Sandy recovery record, just as the chatter for the 2016 White House ramped up.  

Lessons from Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook Elementary

A few weeks ago I drafted a blog post about the effects of Hurricane Sandy on students and teachers in Union Beach, but I never got around to finishing it. And then last Friday happened. Here are my thoughts on both…

Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, I volunteered for the New Jersey Education Association Back to School Effort. This relief program brought much needed school supplies to students and teachers throughout devastated Jersey Shore communities in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, particularly Union Beach. Along with about two-dozen other NJEA members, I helped stuff 1500 backpacks full of school essentials for students, and dozens of large plastic tubs of classroom supplies for teachers.

As I packed, I thought about what these kids would experience as they returned to school almost a month after the devastation. Filled with floodwater and sand, blown apart by high winds, their schools are no longer functional. Instead, makeshift classrooms were set up in a local church parish center and board of education offices. I thought about how these backpacks would help bring some stability to their lives, and what the ultimate goal for educators would be in the coming weeks and months.

Some kids are now homeless, having fled the storm with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They may be living with relatives or in shelters. They are worried, concerned, and afraid: Will we ever be able to go back to our old school? How will Santa find me if I’m living in a shelter? Union Beach is a blue-collar town. Those people didn’t have a lot to begin with. Now, they have even less.

And then last Friday, the actions of an emotionally disturbed young man in Newtown, Connecticut added 27 more names to the long list of innocent people killed through gun violence. Twenty of them were little children. And it happened in the most sacrosanct place we entrust to the care of our children: their school.

Every homicide is a mark on the collective soul of our society. Every mass murder is an amputation of our security. These children were young enough to be more connected to the world from which they came than the world in which they lived. The maiming or killing of children is simply taboo.

In the face of such catastrophic circumstances, the schools in Union Beach and Newtown will need a long time to fully recover. The educators in those devastated communities know that their job for the foreseeable future is making sure their students feel safe and secure again. It’s helping kids cope with what they just lived through and how their lives are forever changed. It’s giving them room to relax and permission to smile. It’s rebuilding their classroom communities. It’s mourning who and what they lost, and celebrating who and what is left. It’s treating these life-changing events in a way that will help their students heal. These kids cannot begin to learn until they’ve had a chance to grieve. They will learn, but it may not be within the context of their standardized tests.

How should a teacher be evaluated when a student is curled up in a ball under a desk having a flashback or a special needs student needs to be restrained? Think all that child needs is a ‘good teacher’ to get him under control? Think again. Oh, and it doesn't take a tragedy or disaster for something like this to occur. It can happen on any given day.

Last year I participated in a round table discussion with political and education leaders throughout New Jersey, including an education ‘reformer’ who lamented that if we could just capture and bottle the essence of great teachers, all our education problems would be solved. Well, unless that essence includes the force that drove seven educators to make the ultimate sacrifice for their students last Friday, that will never happen. Great teachers don’t come in a bottle, but they would do anything—yes anything—for their students.

When Value Added Measures allow for children who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because they watched their teacher shot to death, or barely escaped from floodwaters, I’ll sign on. When every school in America is free of violence, and filled with children of in tact, financially secure, English speaking, low poverty, fully engaged and functional families, I’ll admit I was wrong.

Teacher bashing must end—NOW! Great teachers are already in classrooms all across this country. Just ask the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School and Union Beach. And while you’re at it, ask the parents in either town if they give a damn about their children’s test scores this year.

Unless Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee, Rupert Murdoch, The Walton Foundation, The Koch Brothers and their minions who have no idea what teachers do every day are willing to take a bullet for a student, they should spend their money elsewhere.

Monmouth Ground Zero

This is really great. I was so glad to see an article pop up (after Roundup) about the rise in political force of Monmouth County’s LGBT community. From the piece, by the Ledger’s Mark Bonamo:

The LGBT community is growing both numerically and politically in Monmouth County. According to the 2010 Census, 24,112 same-sex couples now live in New Jersey – a 45 percent increase from 2000. The sharpest increase was in Asbury Park, which had a 305 percent gain in same-sex couples.

Monmouth & Ocean Dems Join Forces – Should Your County Do This?

Chris Christie won Ocean County by 70,000 votes. He took Monmouth, home of NJ’s first LG Kim Guadagno, by about 65,000 votes (plus Dems lost freeholder control). It was a drop through the floor for Monmouth; McGreevey won the county just 8 years earlier. Corzine lost by only 7,500 votes in 2005. But both counties, particularly the shore towns, were death to the Dems in 2009. But now Monmouth & Ocean Dems are calling a new play, starting with a campaign training together next month. Ocean Dems Chair Wyatt Earp:

Ocean and Monmouth are working together, using database and web technologies, social media and old fashioned organizing to  get the Democratic message out. Our goal is to make sure that we are able to effectively increase Democratic voter turnout and  get out the Democratic message to independent voters and working families.

I talked to newly-elected Monmouth Chair Vin Gopal, who’s been a friend and colleague for years via DFA. The program he and Wyatt Earp are planning is ambitious.

Do we take back the governor’s mansion if we continue to hemorrhage votes in those counties? Nobody wants to find that out. Bad as the numbers there were, they were worse in my home county of Hunterdon, where Christie had the highest percentage victory (Ocean yapping at our tails .02% behind us). My crimson county struggles; right now, many of our local towns don’t even have municipal candidates running. Hunterdon has basics to catch up on. Maybe we should be partnering with another county, too.

Here’s how Earp & Gopal plan to ramp-it-up. It starts with the first-ever joint training and conference Sept. 15th. Follow me:  

The Biggest Day in NJ Politics

Update: Vin won his election – congrats Chairman! – JG

Today, the Tuesday after Primary Day, is the least talked about, most important day of the year in New Jersey politics. It’s the day when duly elected county committee members meet to choose their party leadership. Different counties have leadership elections in different years, according to their own bylaws, so not every county has a contested race for leadership this year. But Monmouth County does – and the results matter.

Tonight, the Monmouth County Democratic Committee will be electing a new Chair for the first time in 23 years. And one of the candidates – Vin Gopal – has a real chance to win, with your help. Vin is a young, smart, progressive voice who has been there to support countless good democrats throughout Monmouth County and indeed across the entire state. His own race for the Assembly last year showed the energy, excitement and class that he would bring to the role as Monmouth County Chair. His election would be a watershed moment for progressives throughout the state, and a sign of great things to come in Monmouth County.

So, for anyone who has ever complained about those “mean old bosses” or “that corrupt machine” or whatever other label gets placed on our elected party leadership – there are only two places you should possibly be tonight: your own county reorganization meeting, or Monmouth County’s reorganization meeting at:

The Shore Casino, 1 Simon Lake Dr, Atlantic Highlands NJ.

* Registration begins at 6pm * Voting times from 7pm – 9pm

If you are a Monmouth County Committee Member, I urge you to vote for Vin Gopal for Chair tonight. But, you don’t need to live in Monmouth to help – Vin’s campaign needs phonebankers, drivers, challengers, organizers and more for what will be a hard-fought election tonight. Please do what you can to help a rising star among New Jersey’s progressive democrats, and a good friend of (and occasional contributor to) Blue Jersey.

The Day Mary Pat Angelini’s Head Explodes

**UPDATE! (June25th) This bill was shelved in May, when this post originally aired. It’s back. And up for a full vote today.**

Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini will have a meltdown on the chamber floor today. Mark my words. Look for the sort of spectacle only Nancy Reagan would love.

It’ll probably happen around 4pm during the Assembly debate (and vote) to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in the Garden State. Most of Angelini’s Assembly colleagues will vote to pass the bill, thus striking a blow against the failed, costly, dangerous “War on Drugs.”The bill might even pass the lower house with a veto-proof majority.

But look for Mary Pat to show us that Reefer Madness is still very much alive in New Jersey. I’ll be tuning in just to hear how crazy she sounds because, frankly, it amuses me to hear her make a fool out of herself. And her track record suggests nothing less. Consider the following:

  • Mary Pat Angelini didn’t simply vote against medical marijuana. She gave an insane-sounding, desperate plea to everyone on the chamber floor to do the same. Her reasoning? Allowing cancer patients access to medically-administered cannabis would directly result in upper middle class white kids becoming addicted to crack, heroine and crystal meth.

    In Mary Pat’s mind, medical marijuana is the gateway to society’s ruin. She said so. In front of a lot of people wearing incredulous looks, self included. I could barely believe my ears listening to her woefully ill-informed conclusions about medical marijuana and the patients who are (literally) dying to use it.

    Assemblywoman Angelini’s hurtful comments equating a hospice nurse to a dope dealer drew gasps from the crowd. And her spiteful, mean-spirited characterization of people who use medical cannabis won’t be forgotten. Not as long as I’m around.

    The bill ultimately sailed by a vote of 48-14 with the most compelling arguments for passage coming from Angelini’s fellow Republicans. It would mark the beginning of a pattern where Angelini was a minority within a minority on Drug Policy issues.

  • Mary Pat Angelini voted against a needle exchange program in New Jersey. Never mind needle-exchange is PROVEN to reduce HIV/AIDS/Hepatitis transmission rates, her so-called rationale for the NO vote was a familiar one: access to clean needles for drug addicts sends a message that society condones IV drug use. Which is about as stupid and dangerous as a doctor saying to a grieving mother, “I’m sorry about your dead son. I couldn’t treat him when he overdosed on drugs. Wouldn’t want to send the wrong message to society, now would I?”

    Utter nonsense. Last I checked Mary Pat Angelini is neither scientist nor doctor. But she DOES represent Asbury Park, which has one of the highest HIV transmission rates in the state. With hysterical lawmakers like Mary Pat Angelini making policy in Trenton, it’s easy to see why.

    Follow me below the fold where I reveal what’s animating Assemblywoman Angelini’s modern brand of Reefer Madness….

  • Norcrossippi Rising

    A Blue Jersey commenter has repeatedly written what I consider insulting remarks about residents of South Jersey and Mississippi. I want to believe that his comments were not meant to be insulting, but nevertheless, that’s how I interpret them. There are many fine and decent people both in South Jersey and in the Magnolia State who don’t deserve such disparaging remarks, regardless of their political affiliation.
     
    I love New Jersey. I live in South Jersey, used to live in Central Jersey, and have close relatives whom I frequently visit in North Jersey. The state offers a tremendous amount of diversity – not only in its residents, but in what it has to offer. Most people I know from out of state envision the Garden State the way it is portrayed in the opening scenes of The Sopranos – a series of dirty highways littered by oil refineries and crumbling infrastructure and nice homes occupied by crooks and thieves. But anyone who has lived here knows we’re more than that.
     
    So I decided to have some fun with our commenter’s proposition. What would happen if he had his way?
     
    Story below the fold… 

    My Candidacy for Democratic County Chairman

    An endorsement letter, signed by a number of Monmouth County Democratic municipal chairs, mayors, council members and elected officials, former Freeholders, labor leaders and additional leaders follows this, belos the fold. – promoted by Rosi

    BlueJersey Community:

    I wanted to let you know I am seeking the soon-to- be vacant Monmouth County Demcoratic Party Chairmanship. Vic Scudiery has served our county party for 23 years with honor and integrity.

    Our progressive principles unite us, not divide us. Our desire for an open political process strengthens us, not weakens us. Already we have filled over 75 vacant county committee seats in the past few weeks and we are just getting started!

    Together, we will challenge Joe Kyrillos vote by vote in his home county and I will work tirelessly to make sure that happens.

    Please urge those you know who live in Monmouth to   support our candidacy and join the fight. My list of endorsements are after the thread.

    I look forward to standing with all of you in the years ahead.

    Vin

    Endorsement letter is below the fold.

    Do you “Like” Making a difference?

    I was supposed to be at this training, talking blogs. I had to cancel because of an accident, so apologies to the Monmouth Dems. I heard great feedback on your training – congratulations. – promoted by Rosi

    Sometimes we seem to forget what the State Committee, Elected Officials, and County Leadership can do to build our team, write our playbook and foster our talent. More importantly, we often forget our responsibility as democrats to help ourselves! In Monmouth County we are setting ourselves on a track to implement an aggressive countywide organization with well trained party leadership, elected officials and party activists. On Monday, August 8th State Committee Communications Director (and social-media-guru) Jason Springer, Congressman Pallone and myself joined the Monmouth County Democrats for a a free training on how to use social-media to involve young people in the party, organize around a idea and better communicate our message.

    Under Chairman Scudiery’s leadership, Monmouth County has hosted a series of free trainings for elected officials, municipal chairs, activists and volunteers.  Topics have included an ELEC training, candidates campaign training and advance fundraising.  Not only were they free for the people attending, but were held at no cost to the county party.